I do listen ahead when working through these albums and I’ve listened a few ahead at the time of writing (I’ve got as far as Jimmy Smith if you were wondering), but this is one I’d sort of skipped past. I knew nothing about Miriam Makeba, knew pretty much nothing of the genre, and it was far easier to chicken out until I finally sat down with it today.
Going into it without any expectations was a good thing though I guess, because what I got was an energetic, authentic-sounding album that earned its 40-odd minutes pouring through my headphones.
It’s got its highlights – her introduction to “The Click Song” will make you smile, she nails “House of the Rising Sun” and clearly has a lot of fun with the slightly novelty-pop “The Naughty Little Fly”. There’s western pop, calypso and proper African roots in here, but for me the highlight had to be “Mbube”. It’s epic, rich, melodic and uplifting, and the moment I worked out that the reason I knew it was because it was at the start of “Coming to America” was a highlight of my day.